TAKOMA PARK, MD – August 23 – A 5.9 magnitude that was felt up and down the US east coast was centered in Mineral, Virginia, home to the two-reactor North Anna nuclear power plant operated by Dominion Energy. North Anna sits just 90 miles south of Washington, DC. The plant automatically shut down following a loss of offsite power, but electricity is still needed to cool the reactor core and fuel pools.
“Once again, Mother Nature is warning us that nuclear power is the most brittle of electrical power systems,” said Paul Gunter, director of Reactor Oversight for Beyond Nuclear. “In times of national crisis or natural disaster, nuclear power becomes more of a liability than an asset,” he said.
All but one of the four on-site emergency diesel generators at North Anna started up as needed for reactor cooling and safety systems. However, cooling systems for the two spent fuel pools loaded with nuclear waste do not automatically get switched over to emergency power systems.
Several other reactor sites along the eastern seaboard reported “unusual events” to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission but no others were forced to shut down.
“The Obama administration – which still presses for more nuclear plants – and the nuclear industry and its lapdog regulator refuse to learn the lessons of Fukushima even when they are brought right home by this powerful quake,” said Linda Gunter, International Specialist at Beyond Nuclear. “Even the Japanese prime minister has acknowledged that Japan must move forward without using nuclear energy. Here at home it seems only public outrage can move our leaders. We got lucky again, this time, but at some point that luck will run out. We should not wait to pay that price but start a nuclear phase-out today.”
The earthquake risks at North Anna were known as far back as 1970, a 1975 Washington Post article reveals. Then owner, Virginia Electric and Power Company, was fined an unprecedented $60,000 for building the plant on a known fault line which consultants retained by Vepco claimed did not exist.